By Guest Blogger Aprille Donaldson, author of the blog Beautiful in His Time
A few months ago, I found myself sitting on a bench at Bolton Park, watching my 3-year-old play in the sand with the trucks I had brought along. Two moms entered the park with their children, who both had visible special needs. I’m not entirely sure, but I think that one of the children had Down Syndrome.
I wanted to engage them in conversation. I wanted to tell them how my three best friends are special needs moms whose children have autism. I wanted to tell them that I think they are amazing. I wanted to show them empathy and encouragement. I wanted them to know that I care – that I get it. But, in reality, I knew that the extent of my knowledge of special needs probably paled in comparison to their realities.
I wanted to tell them that I’m a blogger and last year I wrote a post about encouraging special needs moms that went viral on the internet – as if that fact would get them to trust me, confide in me, or at least appreciate my care and concern. But I feared it would come out all wrong…as braggy self-promotion.
I wanted to know their stories, but I was just a stranger on a park bench. They live in a world I can’t begin to comprehend. Why would they want to talk to me?
I’m sure that trips to the park are a big deal for them…the stares, the judgmental looks from other parents who don’t understand. I wanted them to know that I’m not like that, but I was at a loss as to how.
Blogging about special needs when my special needs mom friends are in other states is easy. Talking in person to the special needs mom at the park? That’s a lot harder. That takes guts that I, far too often, don’t have.
I’m still afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’m afraid she will be dismissive of me and my interest in her story.
Now, my son has the words “adjustment disorder” and “ADHD” in his file at his new school for children with “behavioral and/or emotional disorders.” I know it’s not the same as autism or cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome, but it puts me on the outskirts of a world of moms whose children have needs that go beyond “typical.” His problems, invisible, yet so big for our family.
His needs drive me deeper into friendship with special needs moms. The more I become aware of special needs the more I want to keep writing about special needs. All of the needs – the visible and the invisible.
So, before my son even had a diagnosis, my friends and I joined together to start a 31 Days series on my blog, 31 Days of Supporting the Special Needs Family. And now, especially now, I want to share it.
Not just with the countless women across the globe who turn to blogs for encouragement in living the life they are called to as a special needs mom, but with the mom at Bolton Park with the son with Down Syndrome.
I never did catch her name. I never even said hello. I just smiled at her and her child and remained the stranger on the park bench.
So, Triad Moms who have children with special needs, I have a question for you:
When you are at the park, what would you want from the stranger on the park bench who really cares and wants to show you? Do you want her to say hello and ask (maybe awkward) questions? Would you rather have privacy? Would you be willing to share your story with her so that her knowledge of special needs can grow? How can other moms in the Triad support and encourage you better?